Placentophagia: The Benefits of Consuming the Placenta after Birth
The placenta is an organ formed specifically during pregnancy. This organ is responsible for providing a woman’s growing baby with nourishment as well as transporting waste products from the baby. Additionally, the placenta is also responsible for the production of certain hormones critical to maintaining a pregnancy and also provides the baby some protection from infection. After the baby is born, the placenta is expelled from the uterus during what is known as the third stage of labor. Most women don’t even give a second thought to the placenta and it is typically disposed of, however, more women are becoming aware of the health benefits of consuming the placenta and are opting to keep the placenta.
What is placentophagia?
Placentophagia is the consumption of the placenta. Placentophagia is carried out by nearly all mammals in nature but is less common in humans. In some cultures, placentophagia is considered the norm, but in many cultures, such as American culture, it’s not heard of often, nor understood by most. In humans, the placenta is typically only consumed by the mother from whom the placenta came from; however, some fathers choose to engage in placentophagia as well.
What are the benefits of consuming the placenta?
Although there have been very few scientific studies carried out on the benefits of consuming the placenta, placentophagy is believed to have a great deal of benefits for the mother.
One of the most common reasons women choose to consume their own placenta is that it’s supposed to help prevent postpartum depression. The placenta contains the hormones progesterone and estrogen. The thought behind the placenta’s ability to ward off depression is that by ingesting the placenta, these hormones are reintroduced into the body, allowing the mother to gradually lower her hormone levels rather than suddenly having her hormone levels crash after birth.
Additionally, consuming the placenta is supposed to aid in increasing and enriching the mother’s breast milk as well as preventing hemorrhaging and aiding in the restoration of iron in the mother’s blood, which may have been lost during childbirth.
Why consume the placenta instead of just taking medications or vitamins?
Man-made vitamins are not always readily absorbed by the body and medications often have unpleasant side effects. The placenta, since it was part of the mother’s body, is hormonally and chemically unique to her body, thus greatly reducing the risk of any side effects, and increasing the ability of the body to absorb the nutrients within the placenta.
How can the placenta be consumed?
The placenta can be consumed in many different ways, but the most common ways include encapsulation, eating it cooked or raw.
Great deals of women who choose to consume their placenta choose to do so after encapsulating their placenta. The placenta is steamed, sliced, dehydrated, ground into a powder, and packed into vegetarian capsules, much like the ones herbal supplements are packed into. The mother can then take the capsules just like a pill. Many doulas and midwives offer placenta encapsulation for a fee, or the mother may choose to encapsulate her placenta herself.
One of the simplest ways of consuming the placenta is by simply eating it; raw or cooked. Some women will cook their placenta and may even add it into a special dish. Search the web and you’ll find plenty of recipes for placenta. Some women are unsure about how cooking the placenta may affect the health benefits and instead slice and freeze the placenta into small pieces and blend the frozen pieces with a smoothie every day. The placenta can be consumed cooked or uncooked in many different ways.
What else can be done with the placenta?
Some women are not comfortable consuming their placenta, even encapsulated. There are other things that can be done with the placenta. These things may not offer health benefits, but can be ceremonial.
Plant A Tree
Many families choose to plant a tree with the placenta buried beneath the tree. The placenta will rot and act as fertilizer from the tree. This practice can be very symbolic as the placenta is part of the mother, father and baby and together the three of them grew a tree.
The placenta can be cleaned and dipped in paint, or left bloody, and pressed onto paper or canvas to create prints. Combined with printing from the umbilical cord, these prints can be done in very creative ways.